Like this site? Help us to make it better.


China's 'Uber for Bikes' to launch in Cambridge - with 500 bright yellow bicycles

Ofo has 3 million users in its home country - but campaigners in university city highlight parking problems

Cambridge is to become the first city in Europe to get a bike-sharing scheme nicknamed ‘Uber for Bikes’ from a company that has taken China by storm, with 500 bright yellow bicycles set to appear on the streets of the university city next month.

Local cycle campaigners are concerned however that they could exacerbate existing problems regarding a lack of bicycle parking in the city centre.

The company behind them, Ofo, says it differs from other bike-sharing schemes such as London’s Santander Cycles in that no docking stations are required.

Instead, members use a smartphone app to unlock the bike and, once they’re finished with it, they simply reset the combination lock so the bike can await its next user.

It costs 50p per hire, irrespective of how long the bike is ridden for, or how far the journey is.

According to Wired, Ofo which launched in Beijing in 2015 now has around 3 million users in 34 cities in China, and earlier this month it began its expansion abroad with launches in Singapore and California’s Silicon Valley.

Dai Wei, co-founder of the business which is now valued at $500 million, said: “We are the first non-docking, bike-sharing platform in the world. You can find a bike anywhere and park it anywhere.”

But that issue may prove a sticking point according to Al Storer of the Cambridge Cycling Campaign.

“There’s nowhere enough cycle parking in the city centre,” he told Wired.

He added that the possibility of the bikes being stolen might also be an issue.

“Although this says a lot about how gentle a city Cambridge is, that bike theft is the leading crime,” he explained.

Ofo’s business model also allows members to share their own bicycles with others, if they wish, in return for free access to the company’s own bikes – although clearly the prospect of theft may deter many from doing so.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

Latest Comments